Time-out for students is a means of punishment whereby the punished child is placed away from other students – sometimes in a cubicle, in a chair, or at a vacant table – and is not allowed to engage in any classroom activities or other interactions with students. On the other hand, time-out for teachers is the opposite. Instead of punishment, it is a vacation away from the stress of the job – a little time to refresh, to re-energize, and to regroup. And, it gives teachers some time-out from the major issues plaguing education today.
What are some of those issues that are stressing teachers and sending them running away from the profession? One of these major problems is school violence. The nation saw just how serious this problem is recently when 26 little children, teachers, and other workers at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut were viciously murdered on campus. However, the public may never see how poorly disciplined and disruptive some school students are on a daily basis. Shamefully, many teachers must contend with acts of violence from student almost every day while trying to teach routine lessons. Later, when students score poorly on standardized tests, teachers are usually blamed – which so often leave them stressed and burn -out. Giving teachers time-out from school violence may help to de-stress and retain them.
Poor parental involvement is another problem from which teachers need a little time-out. Why? It is a known fact that parental involvement increases students’ grades, test scores, and graduation rates. Because this is true, teachers are required to involve parents and inform them of their student’s progress and discipline problems. Sometimes it is almost impossible to do so because every effort to communicate with parents fails. Teachers invite them to school activities, scheduled conferences, but too many do not come. Open-house is most depressing. Why? During open-house, a teacher of twenty students should have a sign-in list of forty visiting parents. However, the most that shows up for open house is five or six. Offering prizes to students who get their parents to come adds only a few more. Additionally, telephoning or e-mailing parents is ineffective as well. Some teacher spends their entire planning period calling parents or e-mailing them – to no avail. Do the parents return calls or e-mails? The majority do not. Still teachers are held accountable for poor parental involvement and receive negative marks on evaluation forms because of it. It’s not fair. Give teacher a break and blame the parents instead.
A lack of adequate resources and funding is also a problem from which teachers need time- out.
There are never enough supplies in most schools. As a result, many devoted teachers are forced to use their personal funds to buy necessary pencils and papers for their students. In some cases, teachers buy lockers, teacher’s desks, and filing cabinets to help furnish their classroom. Doing so put extra strain on their already tight budgets. In addition, many mandated programs are inadequately financed. Take alternative schools for an example. Too many of them are one room schools – all grades and classes clumped together – with only one teacher facilitating each. Such an environment is not good for students and is definitely not good for teachers.
Excessive and ever mounting responsibilities are one the greatest reasons why teachers need time-out. Most teachers don’t have aides. As a result, in order to finish their to do list, many have to arrive one to two hours before school starts and work long after the dismissal bell. This is done without recognition or promise of overtime pay. No wonder some teachers burnout and leave the profession after only three of four years.
Perhaps the greatest problem that teachers need some relief from is the threat or fear of layoffs. Thousands of teachers receive pink slips each April informing them that they will not be hired back the coming school year. Many times these notices are sent out as a political ploy to get states to approve funds for the next year’s budget. The ploy works in many cases and these teachers are hired back, but only after the damage is done to them. How can school officials be so cruel?
In conclusion, school violence, parental involvement, inadequate funding, layoffs, and excessive responsibilities are only a few reasons why school boards should give teachers time-out. These demons are stressing teachers and sending them looking for other professions. If we want to maintain our teacher workforce, we need to do something dramatic. I suggest that we all rally local and state school boards demanding that they give all teachers a leave from the job every three years.